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    Home Columns

    Tracing Your Home's Roots

    Researching the history of your house (if it's an old one) or the property on which it's built can become an interesting endeavor. My husband and I looked into the previous ownership of the land where we constructed our home in Plymouth, NH and received a lesson in town history at the same time.

    Often when you build a new house, you don't think about its having a history. However, the land has been owned by someone since the days of kings' and proprietors' grants. It's very interesting if you can trace your plot of land back to the first settlers.


    Wards - Among the First Settlers

    One of the early families of Plymouth was that of Rev. Nathan Ward, who with his wife and ten children, came here in 1766. We're not sure if our plot originally was Ward land or was simply nearby. One of the early maps indicates that some land in our area belonged to an Enoch Ward. (Nathan had both a son and grandson named Enoch.)

    When Rev. Ward moved to town as the first minister, he was allotted four 50-acre lots, two of which were on the area eventually known as Ward Hill. Depending on the direction of the lots, it's possible they could have included our three acres.


    The House Where You Grew Up

    Many people also like to delve into the history of the house where they grew up, or where their ancestors did. Some of this information may come to you as stories handed down through your family.

    The information often can be verified by checking the old deeds to the house and property. If you don't have a deed available, because you've moved away from that home or it's been sold, check the records where the deeds are registered. Sometimes you'll find that the original plot of land was a small one and ancestors added onto it. So more than one deed may be involved.

    When the home where I grew up was sold, after my father's death, I had an opportunity to read over the deed and discovered that it listed a number of owners back into the 1800s. My dad had related to me how he and his father came to purchase the land around 1920.


    Ancestors' Homes

    The farm where my mother grew up and which I often visited as a child, remained in their family through three generations. After it was sold upon my uncle's death, and my aunt moved to a smaller home in a nearby village, Bessie gave me a packet of deeds and information about the property.

    How interesting to read through these deeds and trace ownership of this farm back to the early 1800s, to my grandfather's aunt and uncle and the people they purchased it from. This was a farm which also had property added to it over the years when my great grandfather owned it.


    Evolution of a House

    The old houses themselves, particularly in the United States, often started out small with more rooms added on as the family grew and/or more money for building expansion became available.

    The man who purchased my childhood home tried to restore the farmhouse but found the foundation was too far gone. The house had to be dismantled, the foundation rebuilt, and then the lumber used to build a new house.

    In taking the house apart, they discovered that it definitely had been built in sections, as my dad recalled. When he and his father bought it, the main portion was there and they added a kitchen.

    The dismantling revealed that new rooms had been built at different times as family increased and daughters married. It was interesting to go over this with the new owner and discover this additional information about my home.

    Discover the history of your home, or, if it's a new house, the tales of the land. Check out family stories, town histories, deed records, and the construction of the house itself. The places where you've lived throughout your life play a part in forming the story of your life.

    Copyright © 2003 Mary Emma Allen

    Mary Emma Allen researches and writes about family history and finds the stories of her ancestors and the places where they lived an interesting facet of genealogy. Visit her web site at http://homepage.fcgnetworks.net/jetent/mea.

    The Authentic Self: Journaling Your Joys, Griefs and Everything in Between by Shery Russ



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    For excerpts, reviews and what you need to do to receive the 2 free e-books, Write Memories and sign up for free e-mail courses, just head on to the Weekly Writes Book Official Site. (Clicking on the link will open a new window.)

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